Local Author Cari Noga Got Her Start with National Competition


Elizabeth Nielson, Staff Writer

  Have you ever had to write a full essay in under an hour? It’s stressful, isn’t it? Now imagine writing an entire 50,000-word novel in 30 days. That’s what the NaNoWriMo challenge is. NaNoWriMo, short for National November Writing Month, is a national competition that any writer, of any age and skill level, is welcome to compete in. Though the NaNoWriMo competition runs throughout November, its nonprofit website offers year-round support and resources for writers. The NaNoWriMo site, along with tools, structure, and motivating rewards, provides writers with a chance to be a part of a community. NaNoWriMo writers, also referred to as Wrimos, can join groupings based on location, interest, age group, or more. Wrimos can choose to join any local group that may exist or create their own and invite friends. NaNoWriMo also hosts fun events; some geared towards writing, such as write-ins (periods where authors will get together and write for a consecutive amount of time, a play on lock-ins), as well as exclusive meet-ups with famous authors. There are also fun events of the community to get together and relax such as game nights and yoga sessions.

  The official ‘50,000 words in one month challenge runs throughout November, but writers can choose to begin this challenge on their own at any time. NaNoWriMo conveniently tracks the progress of any writing projects you begin, even those unrelated to its famous competition. If you choose to participate in the NaNoWriMo challenge, it helps you stay on track. The goal to complete a 50,000-word novel in 30 days is a minimum of 1,667 words a day. The website helps remind you where you should be at any given point and offers rewards in exchange for completing milestones.

  NaNoWriMo, while being home to teachers, students, parents, and any other aspiring novelist, has graduated many successful published authors as well. Cari Noga, a two-time published author local to the Traverse City area, got her start on NaNoWriMo. Noga has published two novels: “Sparrow Migrations” and “The Orphan Daughter.”

  “The first year that I tried it, I violated one of the cardinal rules, which is don’t try to finish something that’s left unfinished,” said Noga.

  NaNoWriMo encourages writers to start anew on Nov. 1, and never try to finish anything started prior to the challenge. Having broken this “rule,” Noga suffered the consequences: she didn’t finish the challenge that year.

  “In 2010, I changed my whole process of how I started writing. The first two books I tried to write about a topic or a subject, and then in 2010, I started with a character. And that made a huge difference. I also read the [NaNoWriMo] founder’s book No Plot, No Problem. I read that and truly followed it, almost to the sentence,” said Noga.

  Noga participated in many of Traverse City’s NaNoWriMo events, such as a lock-in at Horizon books that she attended in 2019: “It was all quantity over quality. It was a way to get to that 50,000. You can’t revise it and make it better unless you have it to begin with,” said Noga.

  Some writers use the month of October to plan and prepare their novel, to begin writing on the first. Others dive headlong into the challenge, like Noga.

  “I’ve never been a real planner or outliner with my writing. I’m what they call a ‘pantser,’ which is someone who writes by the seat of their pants. What I do is I create what I call character sketches for each main character in the book. It lists their goal, their motivations, and their conflict,” said Noga.

  Every writer has different preferences for their writing, and NaNoWriMo accommodates all types of writers and writing. The NaNoWriMo site not only tracks your word count but helps writers learn a lot about their writing style as well. The site lets writers know what the ideal time to write for them is, based on their word count during different times of the day. Those who write more at night are awarded the “Night Owl” medal, and early-risers are awarded the “Early Bird” medal. Other medals include the “Incognito” award, for writing in various absurd locales; the “Write Here, Write Now” award, for attending a write-in event; and the “Weepy Writer” award, if someone has been moved to tears by your writing.

  Not every WriMo completes the challenge of 50,000 words in a month, and that’s okay.

  “Even if you don’t get to your 50,000 words, you’ve started something,” said Noga.

  Many writers go on to continue working on or complete their novel even after the challenge has ended. Whether a writer decides to participate in NaNoWriMo or not, it’s a wonderful source of support and a great tool for any kind of writer.